The Matrix Trilogy Ultra HD Blu-ray Review

Ralph Potts reviews the highly anticipated Ultra HD Blu-ray release of The Matrix Trilogy, a groundbreaking and classic, sci-fi/action trilogy from Warner Brothers Home entertainment.

The Review at a Glance:
(max score: 5 )

Film:

Extras:

Audio/UHD Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )

98

Details:

Studio and Year: Warner – 1999, 2003
MPAA Rating: R
Feature running time: 138, 138, 129 minutes
Genre: Sci-Fi/Aaction

Disc Format: BD-100
Encoding: HEVC
Video Aspect: 2.40:1
Resolution: 2160p/24

Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1, French/English Dolby Digital, Spanish Stereo
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Ann Moss, Hugo Weaving, Joe Pantoliano, Harold Perrineau, Jada Pinkett Smith, Anthony Zerbe, Harry Lennix, Nona Gaye, Mary Alice, Monica Belluci, Gina Torres
Written & Directed by: The Wachowskis
Music by: Don Davis
Region Code: A

Release Date: October 30, 2018

“What is The Matrix?”

My Take:

The Matrix: Neo (Keanu Reeves) believes that Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), an elusive figure considered to be the most dangerous man alive, can answer his question — What is the Matrix? Neo is contacted by Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss), a beautiful stranger who leads him into an underworld where he meets Morpheus. They fight a brutal battle for their lives against a cadre of viciously intelligent secret agents. It is a truth that could cost Neo something more precious than his life.

The Matrix Reloaded: Freedom fighters Neo (Keanu Reeves), Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) and Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) continue to lead the revolt against the Machine Army, unleashing their arsenal of extraordinary skills and weaponry against the systematic forces of repression and exploitation. In their quest to save the human race from extinction, they gain greater insight into the construct of The Matrix and Neo’s pivotal role in the fate of mankind.

The Matrix Revolutions: In a dystopia overrun by robots, Neo (Keanu Reeves), mankind’s greatest hope, is trapped in a limbo world. Meanwhile, the majority of the planet’s population remains in a state of suspended virtual reality. The few humans who are cognizant of the grim realities of the world desperately try to hold off their mechanical enemies long enough for Neo to escape and save the day, but things turn disastrous when all-powerful computer program Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) arrives in the flesh.

The Matrix needs no introduction among film enthusiasts, especially those with an interest in sci-fi and action. I can’t believe its been nearly twenty years since its release. I remember watching it for the first time. My reaction to the experience felt very much like it did the first time I saw Star Wars (I was thirteen in 1977). The narrative, action, effects and mind-bending nature of the film was both engrossing and thought provoking. Inspiring meaningful conversation every time it came up among friends/acquaintances/strangers that had seen it. It polarized audiences, with some absolutely getting it, while others completely missed it and despised it.

The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions feel more like one movie than two and unveil the details of the events that began in the first film. While The Matrix can easily stand alone, the other two really can’t and play out better as a tandem. That being said, I will say that I enjoy “Reloaded” and have zero problem watching it. For me, its visceral action, pacing and revelatory narrative within the context of the Matrix mythos is lots of fun. “Revolutions” brings the storyline to a close in a gratifying but, dark and “inevitably” sad finale. Watching Reloaded/Revolutions as one film proves much better and is truly the only way to get the most from them.

The Matrix redefined the genre and has become ingrained in our popular culture, spawning two successful sequels, The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions and a plethora of smaller projects based on its context. It’s a film trilogy that simply never gets old and has a timeless appeal that keeps it feeling fresh despite its advancing years. As I sat and revisited it, I was reminded of how visionary and entertaining these films are. The Wachowskis helped redefine the genre, giving us a memorable film experience that stands the test of time. The Matrix Trilogyis one of the most anticipated releases to come to Ultra HD Blu-ray and am thrilled to have the opportunity to cover it.

Replay Value:

Parental Guide:

AUDIO/VIDEO – By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100/EXCELLENT = 83-91/GOOD = 74-82/AVERAGE = 65-73/BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**

UHD Presentation(HDR-10): 96
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

 

  • HDR: Dark Highlights: 
  • HDR: Bright Highlights: 
  • HDR: Expanded Color: 
  • Resolution: 
  • Visual Impact: 

 

UHD Presentation (Dolby Vision): 98
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

 

  • HDR: Dark Highlights: 
  • HDR: Bright Highlights: 
  • HDR: Expanded Color: 
  • Resolution: 
  • Visual Impact: 

 

Dolby Atmos Rating: 100
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

 

  • Level of immersion: 
  • Soundstage integration: 
  • Audio object placement: 
  • Effectiveness of Atmos platform: 
  • Entertainment factor: 

 

The Matrix Trilogy comes to Ultra HD Blu-ray from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment featuring 2160pHEVC encoded video and lossless Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1 channel sound.

The Matrix Trilogy recently underwent a 4K restoration from the original film elements, and its presentation in Ultra HD is derived from the resulting 4K Digital Intermediate.

Let’s begin by understanding that the stylistic choices in shooting this film aren’t always lent to razor sharp imagery, and consistently natural use of color. The Matrix films never looked fantastic on Blu-ray, so considering the fact that each received a facelift, my expectations were fairly high.

Wow! These three films are rather dark, striving to recreate the look and feel of the Wachowkis’ vision. The restored video quality looked excellent in 1080p, but as a whole these Ultra HD rendering is something to behold. The Matrix is a beautifully crafted film, both in narrative, and scope. It’s not an overtly bright film, although there are bright elements. Bill Pope’s terrific cinematography benefits from the enhanced resolution and emboldened contrast. The opening sequence with its inky blacks, detailed shadows and eye-catching HDR, provides a glimpse of what lies in store. The same is true of the opening sequence in Reloaded which looks simply fantastic.

Copious amounts of detail can be seen, both in wide-angle and close-up perspectives, imparting a discernible increase in depth/dimension. Shot on 35mm film, film grain and some innate softening are present. Neither are compromising, even during special effects shots, or those laden with minutia, such as falling rain, flying debris, hazy, light filled backgrounds or drab interiors lit only by dim florescent bulbs.

The use of HDR is spot on, driving the use of moody visual cues offset by gleams of brilliant light that emanate from flashlights, energy pads on hovercraft, a bomb ripping through elevator doors, colliding trucks exploding on a busy highway, or large-scale explosions and muzzle flashes from defense weaponry in the huge standoff in Zion. Specular highlights abound, occasionally resulting in reflexive blinking in response to them. Each of these films contain a plethora of shadow laden environs that offer increased resolve in terms of interstitial details that promote depth of field. Blacks are inky without compromise to fidelity.

Primary colors are beautifully rendered. Things such as the multi-colored magnets on the fridge in the Oracle’s kitchen, the deep red of the dress worn by “The Woman in the Red Dress” or the variety of colors seen in the clothing of the bystanders on the street during the extended chase in the finale in The Matrix, the momentary glimpse of China Town upon Neo’s arrival in The Matrix Reloaded or the richness of reds seen in the nightclub meeting with the Frenchman in Revolutions. All are reproduced with eye catching depth. In general, Fleshtones lean a bit toward the warm side but, not unnaturally so.

Highlights from each that bring all of their presentation’s best elements together: The Matrix – The finale, beginning with the standoff between Neo and Smith, through to his demise, and then the Sentinel attack. The Matrix Reloaded – The opening sequence beginning with Trinity’s motorcycle leap/landing through to Neo being jarred awake by its conclusion or Neo’s blistering emergence from the meeting with the Architect, through to his landing with her on the rooftop. The Matrix Revolutions: Neo’s hand to hand battle with Bane/Smith, Serif emerging from the shadows in the parking garage followed by the meeting with the Frenchman in the nightclub, the entire breach at the dock in Zion, Neo and Trinity’s arrival at the Machine City.

If I had one nit to pick it would be with the entire scene where Neo meets with the Architect in Reloaded. It suffered from an over processed and soft appearance that looked appreciably difference from the remainder of all three films.

I was pleased with the new 1080p renderings but, found that as a whole these Ultra HD presentations took the experience of watching The Matrix Trilogy to the next level, allowing its attributes to be fully realized in a way that it hadn’t been before. Hands down this is the best that these films have looked since coming to home video.

Dolby Vision vs HDR-10:

I utilize the TCL 55P607 UHD Dolby Vision HDR flat panel in my review system to enable me to compare the visual quality of titles that contained the Dolby Vision metadata versus its HDR-10 counterpart on the same disc. All titles are first watched via my JVC front projector. I then select specific scenes which are watched on the TCL, first via HDR-10 then via Dolby Vision. The TCL isn’t among the top tier flat panels with DV, however it came recommended by AVS Forum Senior Editor Mark Henninger, and calibrates/performs extremely well for a set at its price point.

* The cumulative A/V score will still be based upon the HDR-10 rating, with the DV rating serving as informational only for now.*

In comparing the DV and HDR-10 renderings I ran the same scenes using my reference Oppo UHD player (both in DV and forced HDR-10 and Samsung UHD player (HDR-10 only). The titles looked outstanding on both formats with respect to the reproduction of HDR. I did feel that the DV presentation offered slightly richer color rendition and handling of the finest details in shadows. The former wasn’t enough of a difference to warrant a rating difference but, I felt the latter did. As I said you can’t go wrong with either.

Dolby Atmos:

The Matrix was long considered to be the go to for demonstration purposes when it was released on DVD. When it came to high definition the updated Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround mix improved upon the previous 5.1 channel mix and sounded superb. Reloaded and Revolutions raised the bar significantly on home video when they were released. As pleased as I was with how well The Matrix sounded here I couldn’t help but have high expectations for each of them.

Looking at each of these new Dolby Atmos immersive mixes, they retain the things that make that tracks so good while heightening the experience to a whole other level. These soundtracks run the gamut between subtle passages of spoken dialog to dynamically charged sequences that deliver opulent surround sound. As an enthusiast, I appreciate a well-crafted sound mix that draws me into the onscreen elements, regardless of where the sounds are emanating from.

Audio object placement from both above and in the listening plane at ear level are put to effective use. Each mix generates a correlated, and broad soundstage where effects swirl, shift and traverse the listening area. Bass response is superb as it underscores the action with room shaking depth. I also appreciated the effectiveness of the added dimension during sequences where subtle atmospherics replicated the environments contained in the scene. Take your pick of any of the noteworthy action sequences in these films and Dolby Atmos reproduces them in new light delivering an enlightening and enthralling home theater ride. I think that these immersive sound mixes complimented the source material and rejuvenated one of the most renown trilogies on home video. Fantastic!

For those not familiar with the details regarding Ultra HD Blu-ray you can refer to my article that includes some pertinent data on the subject. Here is the link:

Ultra HD Blu-ray Has Come to AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Blu-ray Video:

Video: 94
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

 

  • Resolution/Clarity: 
  • Black Level/Shadow Detail: 
  • Color Reproduction: 
  • Fleshtones:
  • Compression: 

 

Audio: 100
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

 

  • Dynamics: 
  • Low frequency effects: 
  • Surround Sound presentation: 
  • Clarity/Detail: 
  • Dialog Reproduction: 
  • DSU/DTS Neural:X Rating * (non-rated element): NA

 

The Matrix Trilogy comes to Blu-ray Disc from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment featuring 1080p AVC encoded video and lossless Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1 channel sound.

Warner remastered The Matrix Trilogy from the original 35mm film elements, and that 4K restoration was used for these 1080p renderings.

The original Blu-ray release for The Matrix suffered from a problematic encoding and the overuse of enhancement tools. Such isn’t the case here. This film has an intentionally dark and reserved chromatic visual style that doesn’t lend itself to vibrant colors and glossy video quality. There are instances where brighter colors/elements are utilized and the boldly applied contrast allows them to pop visually. Otherwise onscreen images lean toward imagery that provides the thematic look intended to drive the story’s components. This is done to good effect. Shadow delineation is excellent overall and revealing of visible details within dark backgrounds and low lighting.

Stable contrast and deep blacks allow scenes containing mixed content to appear gradationally satisfying with crisp whites and dynamic highlights. Resolution is discerning as images are characterized by intricate and definitively rendered detail that gives the video appreciable dimension and delineated texture. Looking at Reloaded and Revolutions the overall aesthetic from the previous Blu-ray releases, while subtly tweaked (in a good way), remains intact with the previous positives mentioned above, highlighting them. In general, and across the board, these are solid high definition presentations that looked great on my large screen.

The lossless Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (Atmos core) soundtracks best the 5.1 channel mixes, offering excellent dynamic range, detail rich clarity, and noteworthy use of the entire surround platform to drive the film’s elements. The detection of subtle background sounds, off camera cues and spatial dimension within the room’s acoustic environment is notable. The low frequency effects channel is active as the subwoofer works in tandem with the rest of the system to convey the palpably rich bass and dynamic impact associated with the action-based sequences. Dialog is firmly planted in the center channel and renders voices and effects with appropriate distinction. I am so pleased the Warner opted to include the Dolby Atmos/7.1TrueHD soundtrack on the Blu-rays as well.

Bonus Features:

  • Discs 1&2: The Matrix UHD/Blu-ray
  • Discs 3&4: The Matrix Reloaded UHD/Blu-ray
  • Discs 5&6: The Matrix Revolutions UHD/Blu-ray
  • Bonus Features Blu-ray for Each
    The Matrix
    • Written Introduction by The Wachowskis
    • “Philosopher” Commentary by Dr. Cornel West and Ken Wilbur
    • “Critics” Commentary by Todd McCarthy, John Powers and David Thomson
    • “Cast & Crew” Commentary by Carrie-Anne Moss, Zach Staenberg and John Gaeta
    • “Composer” Commentary by Don Davis with Music Only Track
    • The Matrix Revisited
    • Follow the White Rabbit
    • Take the Red Pill
    • Marilyn Manson “Rock is Dead” Music Video
    • Teaser Trailer
    • Theatrical Trailer
    • TV SpotsThe Matrix Reloaded
    • In-Movie Experience – Cast and creative team guide you through a unique infiltration of the filmmaking
    • Written Introduction by The Wachowskis
    • “Philosopher” Commentary by Dr. Cornel West and Ken Wilbur
    • “Critics” Commentary by Todd McCarthy, John Powers and David Thomson
    • Behind The Matrix
    • Car Chase
    • Teahouse Fight
    • Unplugged
    • I’ll Handle Them
    • The Exiles
    • Enter The Matrix: The Game
    • Enter The Matrix
    • P.O.D Sleeping Awake Music Video
    • Theatrical Trailer
    • TV SpotsThe Matrix Revolutions
    • In-Movie Experience – Cast and creators navigate you through the Trilogy’s thunderous conclusion – all as you watch the movie
    • Written Introduction by The Wachowskis
    • “Philosopher” Commentary by Dr. Cornel West and Ken Wilbur
    • “Critics” Commentary by Todd McCarthy, John Powers and David Thomson
    • Behind The Matrix
    • Crew
    • Hel
    • New Blue World
    • Siege
    • Aftermath
    • Theatrical Trailer
    • TV Spots
  • Digital Copies

Final Thoughts:

The Matrix won four Academy Awards and revolutionized the sci-fi action film genre. As a trilogy it would set the standard for films to come. It comes to Ultra HD Blu-ray in this Combo Pack, from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment, featuring newly restored video quality that befits its status, terrific Dolby Atmos immersive listening experiences that enhances each soundtrack, and legacy supplements. The Matrix Trilogy on Ultra HD Blu-ray is simply a must have for fans that are set up for Ultra HD Blu-ray and or Dolby Atmos immersive sound. Enjoy!

 

 

 

Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Reference Review System:

JVC DLA-RS500 3D/4K Ready High Definition Front Projector
(Calibrated with Calman 5 & C6-HDR Meter from Spectracal)
Stewart Filmscreen – Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16×9 Screen
Carada Masquerade Electronic Horizontal Masking System
Marantz AV7704 Audio/Video Processor
Emotiva XPA-7 Gen 3 Seven Channel Amplifier
Emotiva XPA-11 Gen 3 Amplifier
Oppo UDP-203 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
System Controller: Apple iPad/iRule Pro HD Universal Remote Control
Canton “Ergo” and Canton In-Ceiling Series Speakers
SVS Ultra Surrounds (Gloss Finish in Bipolar Configuration)
Dual SVS PC4000 Cylinder Subwoofers
Panamax M5400-PM Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) – Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
AC Infinity Aircom T8 Component Cooling Systems